|Scene from the UNC team send off for the Sweet 16 at the Smith Center last Wednesday. | Photo: Chris White|
Carolina is headed to the Final Four!
The Heels outplayed Indiana and Notre Dame this weekend to clinch its 19th Final Four berth in program history, adding to the NCAA record.
Carolina looked every bit of a No. 1 seed in its dismantling of the Hoosiers and the Irish in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, respectively. Marcus Paige bounced back from a shooting slump he experienced throughout much of the regular season. Brice Johnson continued being Brice Johnson, even making Tar Heel history by becoming the first player to record 23 double-doubles in a season. Coincidence that Johnson’s mark was Michael Jordan’s number at UNC? I think not!
The last time the Heels went to the Final Four was in 2009 which, coincidentally, is the last time the program won the National Championship. 2015-16 has been a wild and special season on many fronts but this Final Four berth has been a little more special for me. I’m an April Fools baby and, back in 2009, the Final Four and National Championship Game took place during my birthday weekend. I turned 17 that year and I not only wanted Carolina to win it all. I wanted to go to the team’s send off from the Smith Center as it headed off to Detroit that weekend. I needed someone to go with me but my mom was working and most of my friends were Duke fans. What did I do? I called on grandma – who’s a Duke fan herself, mind you – to go and she said yes without hesitation. What commenced is something I’ll never forget. Watch this video first and I’ll explain on the other side.
So, the whole “getting on TV” thing happened unexpectedly. My grandma and I were standing there and she said that she was going to catch [local news station, WRAL, reporter] Ken Smith and tell him her story. Grandma told Smith how she was a “diehard Duke fan” but wanted to do this for me in celebration of my 17th birthday. After the story aired, tons of people we knew told us they saw us on TV. But it’s not the being on TV part that will make me remember this. Seven years later, I’m now a college graduate, starting my professional career in none other than sports. My grandma is 89. She’s lived an incredible life – and is still doing so despite a cancer diagnosis at the beginning of this year. That makes this memory – and the many others we’ve shared – even more special.
Go Heels and let’s win the whole daggum thing!